Monday, June 27, 2011

New trail lauded in Rangeley | Sun Journal

New trail lauded in Rangeley | Sun Journal:

"The National Park Service in December 2010 transferred ownership of a small parcel to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. That land had been barred from ATV use, which prevented riders from connecting to the trail systems in the area.

The transfer allowed the state to give riders access around Eddy Pond, near the Saddleback Mountain ski resort. The formal dedication of the West Saddleback Connector celebrated the work of community groups, government representatives, private landowners and volunteers.

As keynote speaker at the Rangeley Country Club event, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the tireless efforts of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, the High Peaks Alliance and other groups made the celebration possible."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

York's Earl Shaffer among inaugural Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inductees - The York Daily Record

York's Earl Shaffer among inaugural Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inductees - The York Daily Record: "GARDNERS -- York native Earl Shaffer has been inducted into the brand-new Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame at the Appalachian Trail Museum in Adams County.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Walking the Appalachian Trial is No Euphemism

In 1948 Earl Shaffer of York, Pa., made history. He walked 2,181 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mt. Katahdin, Maine, making him the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. This is the time of year that "through hikers" are traversing the Keystone state.  With notoriously rocky trails, hikers say Pennsylvania is a great test of their determination to get to Maine.

An early morning lightning storm pounds at the wooden roof of the "Kirkridge" rock shelter near the Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. Three Appalachian Trail through-hikers are dry and sleeping soundly. They are eight miles shy of finishing the state and have been hiking for three months since beginning this spring at Springer Mountain, Georgia.
"The rain really slows me down," said Zack Joiner of Carthage, Mississippi, who adopted a trail name Facejacket.  "When its raining it's no fun to pack up a tent, or in my case a tarp."
The night before Joiner built a fire and told me a story of one of his more difficult moments on the trail.
"Sure enough one of the roots that I thought I was stepping on turned, and proceeded to bite me," said Joiner. "It turned out to be a copperhead."
Thankfully he was wearing a hiking gaiter that protected his leg. One of his traveling partners, Harry Netzer, will soon start college.  He has wanted to hike the AT since his mother read him "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, as a child.
Netzer had his trail name, Shorts, given to him.  
"In the beginning we had a few snowy days, ice over night," said Netzer.  "I would always be in shorts, other people would put on rain pants and long underwear, so I'm Shorts."  
Dave Childs is a chairperson of the hiker's center, a free hostel at the Holy Church of the Mountain in Stroudsburg. He says typically two in ten through-hikers make it to the end, but those who conquer Pennsylvania are beyond half way, and have a good chance of summiting Mt. Katahdin in Maine before fall weather rules it out.  
"Right about now, in early June through July they start coming through the state," said Childs. "The latest they can pass through Pennsylvania is August if they're get to Baxter State park before it closes on October 15th."  
Life on the Appalachian Trail always involves some hardship, but Pennsylvania, called Rocksylvania, is one of hikers least favorite sections.   
"My feet are very angry," said Joiner.  "To be honest, I'm excited about getting out of Pennsylvania and on to flat ground again, so that the entire bottom of my shoe actually hits dirt."
Anna Jeffers, who has been hiking sections of the AT for a decade, is a 57 year old lawyer from Baltimore. 
"It just became rockier and rockier, and there's parts of it where the trail goes over knife edges of rocks," said Jeffers. "You're holding on with a 35 pound pack on your back."
Yet Netzer and Joiner say they are having a great time and are determined to finish. 
"I definitely see myself making it through to the end," said Netzer. "It's been 1,200 something miles so far, I have a pretty good idea of what I have left."
"I have a lot of friends out here and I want to hike up Mt. Katahdin with them," said Joiner.  
Red Ryder is from Illinois and only wants to be known by his trail name. He says the AT isn't just a trail, it's like a society in the woods.
"To me the trail is about the people out here," he said. "We have a language of our own. You're a sobo, you're a south-bounder.  You're a nobo, you're a north-bounder"
"Blue blazes, are side paths," chimes in Netzer.  "Yellow blazes are shortcuts, like a taxi cab.  Steel blazing is taking a train. Aqua blaze--apparently there a few places where you can ride a raft."
It doesn't take long before through hikers' conversations turn to trail food:
Ramen noodles,
Candy bars
Tuna fish
Preservable cheese. 
"I've packed out Little Debbies, I've packed out beer, and whole subs," said Joiner.
Walking more than 2,000 miles does weed out a lot of people.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy says only about one quarter of this year's 1,500 through hikers will finish.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trails I've hiked - The Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia

Trails I've hiked - The Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia

Open area near Massey Gap
Scenery and ponies on the A.T. from Massey Gap to Elk Garden. Photos by Danny Bernstein
It was President Reagan’s favorite joke and it goes like this.
A psychiatrist was observing two little boys in a room full of horse manure. The first one was very upset with all the dirt and filth. The second little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked.
The happy child replied, “With all this poop there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
And I felt exactly like the optimistic boy as Lenny and I scouted the hike on the Appalachian Trail we're going to lead at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference Virginia Journeys. The area is famous for its feral ponies and I was happy to see the droppings.
This hike on the A.T. in southwest Virginia goes from Massey Gap in Grayson Highlands State Par to Elk Gardens (8.9 miles, 1,500 ft. of cumulative ascent). After placing a car at Elk Gardens, we drive to Massey Gap and try to find the A.T. We look at the map yet again and realize that we need to take the connecting Rhododendron Trail for a half-mile, and then pick up the A.T. southbound.
The trail crosses open meadows. Right now purple Catawba rhododendrons and flaming azaleas are in bloom. Mountain laurel will open up in a couple of weeks. Gold finches flit through the bushes. Hay has been left for the wild ponies. Soon the A.T. leaves Grayson Highlands and is back in Mt. Rogers Recreation Area. We come up two groups of ponies, including nursing foals.
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Feral ponies graze along the Appalachian Trail. Photo by Danny Bernstein.
These ponies were introduced and now run wild. If the herd gets too large, the park sells them at an auction in September. Unfortunately, a careless and slow hiker has let his dog run ahead and disturb the ponies. In response, the ponies rear up their hind legs to kick the dog, but the dog runs away. The dog disturbs photographers more than the ponies. The trail climbs on rocky steps and goes through Fatman Squeeze Tunnel, a narrow passage way through rocks. Finally we reach Rhododendron Gap at 5,440 feet, and find a magnificent view. We're rewarded by a flat stretch, a boulevard of beech and spruce trees.
Bluets, tiny blue flowers, carpet the ground. It's a good area for camping, though there's no water on the ridge. Open meadows, "balds," are not natural; they were created by logging, grazing, and fire. Now the U.S. Forest Service keeps the land open by the same methods. Grazing wild ponies help as well.
Further down at Thomas Knob Shelter, we meet two guys on an overnight backpack. One is dreaming of doing the A.T. in a couple of years when he retires. "You can do it," I tell him. "One step at a time."
The trail enters the Lewis Fork Wilderness Area. All sorts of restrictions apply to a wilderness area, including that the group size can't be more than 10. The hiking gurus at the ATC conference have taken that into account. We'll lead a southbound group of hikers and two other volunteers will lead a northbound group.
Soon we get to the spur trail up to Mt. Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. There's no view at the top but it's a popular destination, nevertheless. A group of college students from College of Lake County in Northern Illinois are on a two-week trip studying physical education, biology and English. They congregate on top of the mountain to eat lunch, though several students still struggle to get to the peak. They tell me that they're hiking every day and have to journal and reflect on their hikes.
For English they also read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. The author didn't finish the A.T. and annoyed all of us that did, but it's a famous and funny book.
You won't find solitude on this section of the A.T., but it's a spectacular section even if you just go a mile out and a mile back. We keep meeting A.T. thru-hikers and other long-distance hikers, which is always a highlight for me. By the end of May, when we did this hike, the thru-hikers that we meet are at the tail end of the wave of Northbounders.
One retiree tells us that he knows that he's slow and that he'll have to flip-flop at some point. Hikers do a flip-flop when they think that they won't be able to make it to Katahdin in Maine before bad weather sets in. So they leave the trail, take a bus to Mt. Katahdin, and start walking south to where they've left off. It's a way to stretch out the hiking season. After the turn-off to Mt. Rogers, the trail goes into the woods and keeps descending. It comes out at Elk Garden, another beautiful open field.
Appalachian Trail bench
A bench for a rest awaits those who make it to Elk Garden. Danny Bernstein photo.
Here a hiking group had erected a bench at the top of the meadow in memory of one of their fellow hikers. Lenny and I sit for a couple of minutes and then continue down to VA 600 and our car. There are no elk in Elk Garden. As signs explain, elk were driven to extinction here as forests were logged and cleared for farming. Hunting also contributed to their demise. Rocky Mountain elk, a close relative to the extinct eastern elk, have been introduced in eastern Kentucky and some have made their way to southwest Virginia. The same elk species was brought back to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001 and 2002.
As we drive back to Massey Gardens to pick up our first car, we see two cows coming up a trail and about to cross the road. They are frightened by the cars and scuttle down into the forest too quickly for me to take a picture.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Asheville amateur hiker takes on USA's 2 toughest trails | The Asheville Citizen-Times |

Asheville amateur hiker takes on USA's 2 toughest trails | The Asheville Citizen-Times | "After I read Bill Bryson's classic outdoor narrative “A Walk in the Woods,”I developed a near obsession with hiking the entire 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail in one hiking season.

This was in spite of my never having spent even a single night outdoors in my 44 years. So in the spring of 2005, I set off — full of hope, determination and fear.

I immediately realized I had plunged into a whole new world. For starters, the Appalachian Trail runs through some ferociously difficult terrain over the course of 14 states."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Harrisonburg, VA to be Designated as an Appalachian Trail Community

Harrisonburg, VA to be Designated as an Appalachian Trail Community

This press release is acknowledging Harrisonburg, VA as the newest community in the Appalachian Trail Community(TM) program.

Harrisonburg, VA, June 03, 2011 --( On June 10, 2011, the city of Harrisonburg will be officially dedicated as an Appalachian Trail Community™. Speakers from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Harrisonburg Mayor Richard Baugh, and Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce President Frank Tamberrino, will lead the ceremony. The event will also feature two Harrisonburg locals, David and Michael Frazier, who recently completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

The Appalachian Trail Community™ designation is a new program of the ATC, the non-profit manager of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.). Launched in 2010, this program recognizes communities for their part in promoting awareness of the A.T. as an important national and local resource. Towns, counties and communities along the A.T. corridor are considered assets by A.T. hikers, and many of these towns act as good friends and neighbors to the Trail.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to celebrate communities that are helping to protect and promote the Appalachian Trail,” stated Julie Judkins, Community Program Manager of the ATC. “These new partnerships will increase local stewardship of public lands, support community initiatives for sustainable economic development and conservation planning, as well as support healthy lifestyles for community citizens.”

The designation ceremony will take place on the steps of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham General District Courthouse, located at 53 Court Sq. in Harrisonburg at 6:30. The event will be followed by the opening of Fridays on the Square. The annual Harrisonburg summer music and film festival is entering its 21st season and will feature the roots-rock band, Eric Brace and Last Train Home.

“It is a great opportunity for the Harrisonburg area and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to partner on promoting the scenic beauty and the amenities that both the Trail and Harrisonburg have to offer,” stated Frank Tamberrino, President of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce. “We appreciate the Conservancy recognizing the historic and current relationship between the residents of Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley and the hikers and visitors on the Appalachian Trail.”

The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials who were working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. The A.T. is 2,181 miles in length from Maine to Georgia, making it the longest, continuously marked footpath in the world. Volunteers typically donate more than 200,000 hours a year on trail-related work. About 2 to 3 million visitors walk a portion of the A.T. each year. The ATC is focused solely on preserving and managing the A.T. to ensure that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.

About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information please visit

Contact: Julie Judkins
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Tel: 828.254.3708 x 11
Fax: 828.254.3754

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